MILWAUKEE (AP) — With Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the house, the Milwaukee Bucks played like NBA champions.
They shot 57 percent. They held an opponent under 100 points for the first time in 12 games. And they enjoyed a rare breather for most of the second half in a 114-88 victory Monday night over the Utah Jazz.
"It all came together tonight and that was really good to see," coach Larry Drew said after the Bucks' most lopsided win of the season.
Ersan Ilyasova scored a season-high 31 points on 13-of-14 shooting to lead five Bucks in double digits. Zaza Pachulia added 14 points, six rebounds and five assists, and the NBA's worst team improved to 12-47.
Enes Kanter had career-high 27 points to lead Utah, mired by a mistake-prone third quarter in which the Bucks regularly led by at least 20.
"It doesn't matter how many points I scored because it was a loss in the end," Kanter said.
Hard as it is to believe these days, Milwaukee was once a force in the NBA with Abdul-Jabbar, who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucks in 1969. Then named Lew Alcindor, the big man with the famed sky hook was joined by fellow future Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson on a team that won the NBA title in 1971.
On Monday, Abdul-Jabbar was in town to promote a tourism ad for the state of Wisconsin that played off his acting role in the movie "Airplane." He watched a game that turned into a laugher in the second half.
Everything went right for the Bucks. Pachulia hit a layup in transition for an 11-point lead before guard Nate Wolters got the break going again after a Utah miss with 11:07 left in the third quarter. After a Jazz miss, Wolters rushed the ball into the lane to draw defenders before pitching back to Pachulia for an open 15-footer.
"Everything started defensively. We got stops. We got rebounds and fast breaks, then Nate did a good job with the penetration," Pachulia said.
Later, Ilyasova found himself open from 22 feet for another jumper and an 85-60 lead with 3:08 left in the third quarter. There have been nights this season when the Bucks have struggled to get to 85 for a game.
But on Monday, Drew's club pulled away after allowing an early 12-point lead to get erased in the second quarter.